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Starting an Ophthalmology Practice

Thinking About Starting an Ophthalmology Practice? Read This!

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Are you considering starting an ophthalmology practice? If so, you're not alone. While many medical professionals come out of college strapped with student loan debt and hampered by financial uncertainty, ophthalmology is one medical speciality field still producing solo practitioners.

Undoubtedly, ophthalmologists are among the last in a seemingly vanishing breed — the medical entrepreneur who chooses to work for themselves. If this explains your ambitions, continue reading for a few simple tips you can use when starting an ophthalmology practice.

Is Starting an Ophthalmology Practice Right for You?

The process of deciding whether starting an ophthalmology practice has less to do with your medical talents and more to do with your temperament for business. It should all start with understanding whether you have the propensity, passion, and personality to be a successful business entrepreneur. Ask yourself:

  1. Do you have a tolerance for risk?

  2. Are you energized by the notion of starting and building your own ophthalmology practice?

  3. Are you planning on being involved in the community to actively develop relationships and create a strong patient base?

  4. Are you in it for the long haul?

When you own an ophthalmology practice, you should plan on becoming a staple in the community. And if you can confidently answer yes to the previous questions, starting an ophthalmology practice may be a sound decision for you.

Plan Early. Plan Ahead. Don't Forget to Get Your License

Whether you're joining an existing practice or looking to start your own ophthalmology practice, you'll need to obtain a Drug Enforcement Agency number in your respective state and obtain a medical license. This license is a prerequisite for hospital privileges, which are critical for applying to Medicaid, Medicare, and other types of managed care plans.

A surprising number of year-one ophthalmologists make the mistake of not planning for licensing after completing their training. As a result, they have to sit on the bench because they failed to apply for their licenses prior to completing their fellowship or residency. Failing to plan ahead can create mass amounts of confusion amongst referral sources as to which payers the ophthalmologist participates with. This can undoubtedly have a negative impact on your cash flow. And if you're just starting out, you'll need as strong of cash flows as possible.

Think Like an Entrepreneur Because You Are

While your specialty may be treating different eye diseases and conditions, it's vital for you to think like a business person and an entrepreneur — if you're planning on successfully starting an ophthalmology practice. However, because you probably didn't receive entrepreneurial training or management training, several issues can be jarring. Here are a few of the most common problems associated with starting an ophthalmology practice or any other type of business:

  • Choosing the most ideal location;
  • Conducting demographic research;
  • Creating a business plan;
  • Negotiating the office lease;
  • Securing a business line of credit
  • Purchasing the right ophthalmology equipment for startups;
  • Purchasing furniture for your practice
  • Establishing a website; and
  • Hiring an office manager and other office staff.

You Can Never Have Enough Information

As you're looking for a location for your practice, make sure you avoid areas that have a population than less than 10,000 residents, even if it means you will not be able to fulfill your dream of opening a practice in your hometown. Why? Because most experts agree that populations less than 10,0000 may not be able to support your ophthalmology practice.

Build Relationships with Keeler Distributors

Considering you can never have enough information as you're scouting the landscape, it's critical to know where to find reliable information. Unfortunately, other ophthalmologists who are practicing in the same area may not be forthcoming to share their hard-learned lessons with you because you could be competition.

However, one place you can turn to is Keeler's distributors. Simply put, we see it all and have an in depth level of understanding of each area our distributors operate. In addition to creating a valuable relationship with the leading manufacturers of ophthalmic equipment, you can potentially gain insider information that can help you make the best decision when starting an ophthalmology practice. Visit Keeler's Distributor page to find a distributor near you or give us a call at 1-800-523-5620 to find the distributor nearest to you.

Talk to Insurance Companies

Another possible source of information are insurance carriers. The medical directors of plans in your area can most likely provide you with key bits of information, such as whether the area can support another ophthalmologist. At the same time, they may let you know the area has all of the ophthalmologists it needs.

The latter information may serve as a fair warning that setting up sho pin a certain area may prove to be difficult to join insurance panels. Keep in mind, to be considered by a particular insurance carrier, you'll almost always need a physical office address.

And even then, it can take up to six months to be an accepted panel member. These panels are critical to your success and will eventually be your main connection to cash flow. Needless to say, you can't and shouldn't attempt to do business without them for too long.

Contact Keeler Today

Whether you're looking to establish an ophthalmology practice and need local resources or you're looking for cutting-edge equipment, Keeler can help. For more than 100 years, we've been the premier manufacturer of key ophthalmology equipment.

Contact us today.

About the Author Eugene VanArsdale

Eugene is the Director of Marketing Communications at Keeler Instruments. He has been with Keeler since 1982 and is co-holder of two patents for the company. Eugene has a true passion for the eye care industry and has dedicated himself to understanding the ins and outs of the optometric and ophthalmic equipment market.